Saturday, 10 April 2010

Eagles Fly High And Bury Badgers

There are a ton of reasons why you should have tuned into the NCAA Frozen Four final tonight to witness the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the Boston College Eagles square off for American collegiate hockey's top prize. The two evenly-matched teams came in with nearly identical records, and were ranked as the third- and fourth-best teams in the nation this year. Honestly, the difference between these two teams, some might say, would simply be the jerseys they are wearing. However, tonight's NCAA Championship game drew a clear line in the sand as to which team was better on this occasion.

The game at Ford Field set a new indoor hockey record as 37,592 fans watched as the Badgers and Eagles meet for the right to be called "NCAA Champions". And, at the conclusion of this game, it could be said that one team literally dominated on both ends of the ice.

At 11:04 of the first period, Wisconsin's John Mitchell was whistled for a check to the head when his elbow got up on an Eagles player. This infraction sent Boston College to the powerplay, and they would make Wisconsin pay.

Ben Smith worked his way into the slot, and set up shop there. Joe Whitney found Smith open with a pass from the point, and Smith's wrist shot flew past Wisconsin goaltender Scott Gudmanson high on the stick side at 12:57. Smith's 16th goal of the season came on the powerplay, and the Eagles' assistant captain gave Boston College the early 1-0 lead.

The Eagles would carry that one-goal advantage into the intermission. The Badgers were stymied in the first period by the Eagles' defence, getting off a mere five shots that goaltender John Muse had no problems stopping. The 12-5 shots lead that Boston College established showed just how ready they were for this game.

Both teams settled down in the second period, but neither could find the back of the net. Both goaltenders were strong as Gudmanson stopped six shots while Muse turned away nine shots. After two periods, Boston College had an 18-14 lead in shots, and the all-important 1-0 lead after forty minutes.

Just 1:36 into the third period, Boston College added to its lead. Whitney sent an outlet pass to Cam Atkinson who streaked down the left wing. Atkinson backhanded a shot along the ice as he crossed the left face-off dot that caught Gudmanson moving. The puck slid between Gudmanson's pads and ended up in the cage behind him on one I'm sure he'd like to have back. Atkinson's 29th goal of the season put Boston College up 2-0 with just over eighteen minutes to play.

2:02 after that, the hole got deeper for Winconsin. Boston College's Jimmy Hayes took a pass at center and cruised down the right wing into the Badgers' zone. From the half-boards, he fired the puck through the slot as two Eagles were converging on the Badger net. Chris Kreider, who had beaten his man down the ice on the left side, cut towards the net as Hayes fired the pass across. Kreider tipped his pass up and over Gudmanson, and Boston College had a 3-0 lead on Kreider's 15th goal of the season at 3:40.

Wisconsin's Craig Smith was sent to the penalty box at 6:32 of the third period for laying an elbow into an Eagles player's head, and that put Boston College on another powerplay. During the powerplay after a Badgers player had sent the puck down to the Eagles' blueline, Joe Whitney threw a backhand pass up the middle of the ice from the blueline on the right boards. The puck was just out of the reach of Brian Gibbons as he got a stick on it to redirect it, but not enough to stop it.

However, the puck slid to Cam Atkinson who was streaking down the left wing. Atkinson, with a head of steam, tore past the Wisconsin defencemen to find himself on a partial breakaway. Atkinson angled himself into the slot on his forehand before pulling the puck to his backhand and flipping it over Gudmanson's blocker into the back of the net. A very pretty goal by Atkinson earned him his 30th goal of the season, and second of the night, and put the Eagles up 4-0 with 12:40 to play.

With five minutes to play, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves pulled Gudmanson in an act of desperation to try to generate some offence. However, after the teams battled for the puck along the boards at center ice, it found its way out to the center ice face-off circle where Boston College's Matt Price simply turned and fired into the yawning cage at 15:29. Price's fifth goal of the season iced the game for Boston College as they led 5-0.

At the conclusion of the game, the fourth-ranked Boston College stood alone as the 2010 NCAA Men's Hockey Champions on the strength of their 5-0 shutout performance. John Muse stopped all 26 shots he faced in posting the shutout, and is now 8-0 in the NCAA Frozen Four tournaments. Muse backstopped the 2010 Eagles to a championship, as well as the 2008 Eagles to their championship.

Boston College has their fourth NCAA Men's Hockey title in their school's history, and the second in three years. Hockey East, the conference that Boston College plays in, has won the last three NCAA Men's Hockey titles as the 2009 Championship was won by Boston College's arch-rivals in the Boston University Terriers brought home the title.

Ben Smith, who scored the opening goals in both the semi-final and final, was named as the Most Outstanding Performer in the Frozen Four. Joe Whitney recorded three assists in the final, and Cam Atkinson record two goals.

Congratulations go out to the Boston College Eagles - your 2010 NCAA Men's Hockey Champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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